Jacquie Rochow’s, heartfelt dream of ‘possibly-one-day’ serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) changed the instant she heard church president, Thomas S. Monson, lower the minimum age requirement for female missionaries from 21 to 19.
“I was visiting Utah and attending the General Conference session at which President Monson made the announcement (6th October, 2012) and I just looked at my father and said, ‘I have to go!’” said Jacquie, who turned 19 in February.
She is one of six young “sisters” – as they will be known during their 18 months of full-time missionary service – to leave, or to soon leave, from Adelaide’s Firle Stake (diocese) between February and May this year.
“It felt like that revelation was just for me. The tears flowed as soon as the announcement was made. Before that moment, serving a mission was always an ‘if’: if I wasn’t married; if I wasn’t too far into my law studies; if I didn’t have a career. The announcement came at the right time for me,” she explained.
Jacquie began applying right away and received her mission call and assignment three months later, with a start date of April 11.
“I was so excited when I read that I was ‘assigned to labour in the New Zealand Auckland Mission’. I didn’t have any particular place I wanted to go; I just wanted to go where the Lord needed me ….”
Lucy Kuhn, also 19, was equally determined to be a missionary and had no qualms about leaving behind the typically-teenage life of home comforts, modern music, social media, friends and dating for the strict lifestyle and emphases on gospel teaching and community service that awaits them in the “mission field”.
“I woke (the day after the unexpected age-policy change) to missed phone calls, voicemails and text messages from people telling me the news because they knew how excited I would be to serve a mission sooner,” Lucy recalled.
“I have this wonderful truth in my life about why I'm here and where I'm going, and I feel like I need to share it with everyone. I've seen the blessings and joy the gospel gives people and I know it’s true.”
As missionaries everywhere would attest, Jesus Christ is their role model.
“Christ loved everyone no matter what. That's what I try and do – to see people's potential even if they can't. It will help me a lot on my mission I think,” added Lucy, who has put graphic design studies on hold to serve in the England Leeds Mission from May.
For Korean-born Hae Ji (Catherine) Kim, 21 – who interrupted nursing studies to head to the Australia Perth Mission in April - her family’s convert roots and her own personal conversion led to her decision to be a missionary.
“My grandparents joined the church in Korea after housing Mormon missionaries from the U.S.A. They taught them and I am always thankful that both my parents stayed strong and taught me to live the Gospel and love the Lord and follow him,” she said.
“We moved to Australia when I was 13 and we went through some tough years living in a foreign country but we knew that blessings come from being faithful in the gospel … and we had the comfort of support from Church members in Adelaide as well.
“It was during my seminary (early morning youth scripture study classes) that I felt the Spirit strongly and knew the scriptures and the church were true. For me, going on a mission means helping people - inviting them to be part of this beautiful Gospel.”
It is a sentiment echoed by Marnie Pink, 20, who will leave Adelaide in May to serve in the England London South Mission.
“I knew the Gospel was true from reading and applying teachings about faith … and I’d had other experiences too, especially through prayer,” Marnie explained.
“I want to serve to help people and share with them what I have: the happiness found in this amazing gospel! One of the things that motivates me is knowing that we can be forever families and live with God again. “
Marnie, who has worked as a swimming and fitness instructor, said she was excited to serve in south England where her grandmother, Violet Mason – the first convert in her family, who joined the church in Scotland in 1963 – was born.
While each of these soon-to-be missionaries is a second or third generation Latter-day Saint or Mormon, and each is building on their parents and siblings’ former missionary service, Ivy Ting, 26, is creating a new tradition within her non-LDS family.
“My family has been quite supportive because they’ve seen how the church has helped me become a better daughter and person,” shared Sister Ting. “Also, they knew once I’d decided, it would take (a lot) to change my mind.”
Sister Ting, who left Adelaide in February to serve in the Taiwan Taichung Mission, joined the church at age 13 with her sister in Miri, Sarawak, Malaysia.
“I had been thinking about serving since I was about 18. I went out … with the missionaries a lot and those experiences helped me understand the gospel even more, and to see the impact of missionary work in people’s lives,” she said.
“My bishop raised the subject and invited me to pray about it. I received a personal revelation that it’s the right decision and no better time than now. Once I decided to serve and started applying, every day I felt more grateful and more blessed, and because I felt the Saviour’s love I knew I could extend that same love to others as a missionary.”
Serving with the same loving purpose in the Australia Melbourne Mission is Jill Foster, 22, who deferred university study and worked two jobs to fund her mission.
“My experiences with relying on the Saviour in daily life, and especially through trials, made me want to serve a mission," shared Sister Foster.
“We had a loss in our family and turning to the Saviour was what helped me get through that time: and that’s the foundation of my testimony - I know He is always there for each of us.
“As a missionary, it’s a blessing to share that with others, so they too can have that foundation of Jesus Christ in their lives.”
She said missions were full of small miracles, such as the Lord preparing people to hear Gospel truths or to implement prayer in their lives as a way to gain peace and strength.
Sister Foster, who has been in the mission field since February, reflected that her extra-large Missionary Training Centre group intake of 80 seemed to show that the age-requirement drop was “inspiring many to serve the Lord”.
The fact that six sister missionaries from Adelaide’s Firle Stake embarked, or will soon embark, on service in the first few months of 2013 compared to the previous six over the past ten years, reflects the global increase in female missionary service applications to the LDS church which surged from about 15% of all applications to close to 50% following the age requirement change.
Firle stake (diocese) president, Rainer Korte, expressed gratitude for their faith and willingness to serve.
“These young sister missionaries are an inspiration. Their faith, testimony and commitment to sharing the joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ with others are a wonderful example to all of us. The missionary experiences these sisters have will also strengthen their relationship with the Saviour and develop their potential for future service and achievement in the home, Church and community.”